By Dustin Ensinger
Delaware County voters turned out in historically low numbers for Tuesday’s primary election.
Just 13 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots in the primary election, the lowest total in a non-special election going back to at least 1990, the last year with figures available on the Delaware County Board of Election’s website.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Ed Helvey, a member of the board of elections and the chairman of the county Democratic Party. “Anyone interested in democracy should be concerned about the low turnout.”
Going back to 1990, turnout has never been below 20 percent in a non-special, with the exception of the 2002 primary when just 19 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
“Traditionally Delaware County is one of the highest turnout counties in the whole state,” Helvey said.
Delaware County Board of Elections Director Karla Herron believes the low turnout was due to the fact that there were very few competitive state-wide primaries on the ballot.
“Lots of times the state level drives the whole entire election and it starts to work its way down,” she said.
Based on previous primary elections, Herron was expecting a turnout of about 25 percent.
Helvey was expecting more people to take interest in the 55 Delaware County Republican Party Central Committee races and the three-way GOP primary for the seat of retiring Commissioner Dennis Stapleton to generate more interest in the election.
“Given the number of contested races on the Republican side I was really surprised that the voters were turned off by the election,” he said.
More than one-third of registered Republicans – 35 percent – cast ballot in the election. The Republicans represented 72 percent of all votes cast in the election.
Democrats turned out in even higher numbers at 38 percent.
However, it was the county’s largest block of voters, independents, that stayed at home. Just one percent of the county’s 77,775 registered unaffiliated voters cast ballots.
With such low turnout, few took advantage of early voting. Just 1,118 voters cast ballots prior to election day, according to Herron.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-412-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.